Mark and Roger wonder: Why are we friends with these people?

Disclaimer: I do not own RENT. That honor belongs to the great Jonathan Larson.

Note: Regular type will be Roger's point of view and italics will be Mark's.

Other Note: If they can have a reference to Thelma and Louise in Today 4 U, which is released in 1992 in 1989-1990 in the actual movie, then there may very well be some anachronisms in this. How? Mark and Roger are MAGIC…

Enjoy!

Chapter One: Rent

"December 24th, 1989. 9 p.m., Eastern Standard Time." It's very important to be specific, in case I want to remember this later. Kind of like a diary, except not girly. Or misogynistic. "From here on in, I shoot without a script." How hard can it be? After all, all the world's a stage, or something like that.

But the, I've always wondered: Where does the audience sit?

"See if anything comes of it…instead of my old shit." Yes, it's almost a brand new year, just begging to be filled with brand new shit! I'm so excited!

I was thinking of doing something about a Random French Peasant living under King Louis XIV who gets kidnapped by time-travelling aliens and taken to the distant future were she is horrified to discover how secular everything is and she turns the reasonably benevolent empire into a religious cult, but when I told Roger that, he could not stop laughing. For three hours straight. Honestly, I thought he was supposed to be all depressed and all, but apparently he's only emo when he can be bothered to remember.

Yeah, so anyway, I'm sure this'll be just as good.

"No, get out of here. Hey."

I swivel my camera over to see a homeless man trying to clear off some guy's window for some change. Maybe to go buy food, maybe drugs. Who knows?

Yeah, just as good.

"I said, get off the window," car-guy said, sounding rather annoyed.

Or…not.

Well, that's not a very good start, now is it? Of course, it'd probably help if I knew what I was supposed to be shooting. I mean, "real life" IS kind of vague, after all.

Okay, again, not a great start, but maybe tomorrow will be better. I just need to figure out how to do this, and what better way to help me than by spontaneously breaking into song?

That's what Maureen and I always did whenever we had disagreements. And Roger and I. But then, they're both singers, so maybe they were just using me to work on their material? Nah, they wouldn't do that.

I climb on my bike (very retro, thank you very much) and belt out, "How do you document real life when real life's getting more like fiction each day?" Yes, I once heard that the difference between reality and fiction is that fiction has to make sense.

As I was singing, music randomly started accompanying me. I suppose this would freak most people out, but I'm used to it by now. Roger and I can both do it. We're not sure why, but we blame that green glowing stone thing that Benny gave us the last time he tried to get money from us.

"Headlines, bread lines, blow my mind and now this deadline eviction or pay. Rent." I grab a poster announcing said eviction notice and go up to see my hermit of a roommate. God, I can't believe we're actually supposed to pay rent. There is nothing as annoying as rent. Granted, we probably should have been paying it for the past, oh, god knows how long we've been avoiding paying rent. But that's not the point! Rent dodging is like tax evasion: Finding creative ways to do it is almost like an art form.


I suppose if this documentary thing doesn't work out I can always turn professional.

I was sitting in the flat, staring at my guitar and willing it to do something. Suddenly, I could sense that somewhere, a song was being sung. And what's more, it was sung by no other than Mark!

Well, I suppose I've got nothing better to do while I'm waiting for my song to write itself, so I might as well join in and complain about it.

"How so you write a song when the chords sound wrong though they once sounded right and rare?" And maybe I should think about tuning my guitar, too. That could help. Man, and I thought being emo was supposed to HELP in artistic endeavors!

"When the notes are sour, where is the power-" And there goes the lights. Typical. I swear, I'm going to have to ask Benny what that green stone was, because things like this are NOT NORMAL. Or, so I think. I haven't actually left the house in six months, but Mark has, and he seems to think it's weird, too.

Then again, he also seems to think it's weird for me to have not left the house in six months, so what does he know?

"You once had to ignite the air?" I put my guitar down and go over to the fuse box.

"We're hungry and frozen," Mark chimes in.

"Some life that we've chosen," I finish, flipping the switch. Nothing happens. Strange. Where did we put that stone…

Mark comes in and shoves some paper in my face. "How we gonna pay?" he asks me.

"How we gonna pay?" I echo, confused.

"How we gonna pay?" he repeats, like he expects me to be able to answer this with no idea of what he's talking about. I mean, I'm good, but I'm not THAT good.

"How we gonna pay?" I say again, hoping he'll get the hint.

Apparently he does, because his next words are, "Last year's rent?"

Wait, what? "Last year's rent?" Why would we need to pay that? Unless…Oh god, I am SO not opening any mail for the next month or so. I'm having enough problems with Benny's last gift.

I cannot believe him sometimes. I mean, I get that he has not left the flat for a bloody half a year, and has spent amount half of that on the same spot on the couch, but I'm sure I must have mentioned the rent issue at some point in time!

Hm, does being Emo make you selectively deaf? Must research this. I've never been Emo, because I asked Roger about it when Maureen dumped me, and he said that I'd have to lose the scarf. Nuh-uh. The scarf is a total babe magnet. I read it in Men's Vogue.

The telephone rings. Roger and I just stare at it for a moment, then he gives me a look that clearly says, 'Hello, I'm in Emo mode right now and am thus automatically FAR too cool to deign to answer the lowly telephone. Besides, it could be that telemarketer again. The one with the restraining order from the last time you made me answer the telephone.'

Yes, I realize that that is an oddly meaningful look, but what can I say? When you're Emo and thus saying as little as humanly possible, you begin to put a lot into your looks. And spending hours in front of the mirror like Roger does (you would not BELIEVE how long it takes his hair to look like that…) certainly helps.

"Hello?" I ask.

"Hey, guess who's back in town."

Collins should really be more specific. It's Christmas Ever, hundreds of people are here to visit family, so how am I supposed to know who he's talking about?

"It's Collins, man," he says, like he thinks I don't recognize his voice. Please, it's been, what seven months? How could I forget? Well, that and he was playing the part of the ethnic Waldo in a film of mine before he left.

It was great: Basically, it was the back story of Where's Waldo, that children's book character that you have to search for for no apparent reason. Okay, so Waldo starts off in Santa's workshop, a làElf, and one days he grows to be too big to be able to maneuver comfortably about the workshop. UNLIKE Elf, however, Waldo had no father in New York and thus had not choice but to stay at Santa's workshop. Eventually, though, he hit his head on the ceiling one too many times and picked up a pick-axe…

Santa tried to restrain him, but he quickly outgrew all of the elf-sized restraining systems. He had nothing better to do, so he figured he might as well go to New York anyway. Everything was fine there until this little girl made fun of his hat. Because, you know, it IS as stupid hat. And so he picked up another pick-axe and became a mass murderer.

That explains why people are always taking pictures of him and why people are always looking for him. Waldo is an expert killer who lives no witnesses. If someone trains a camera on him, he steps out into the open, smiles and waves at the camera, then fades back into the shadows. So the only way to save your life when he's near is to always travel with a camera.

It's meant to be an inspirational film that encourages more people to become cameramen. It didn't really go anywhere, though, because Collins suddenly took MIT up on their 38th job offer and left half-way through it. That was rather rude of him. Maybe I can start shooting again…No, wait, no script. Right. Ah well, I suppose I can always do it when I'm done with this. Assuming Collins hasn't died from AIDS by then, of course.

"Throw down the key," Collins instructed. I wondered vaguely why, since we used to live together, he didn't have his own damn key, but obliged him anyway. "Cool."

Cool? What was cool? That he could order people to allow him entry into their apartments and they would? Hm…Strange. Maybe Collins played with Benny's stone?

While Mark was busy dealing with I-can't-be-bothered-to-call-before-showing-up-despite-the-fact-that-perhaps-you-might-be-out-or-busy-or-getting-evicted-even-though-I'm-not-Emo Tom Collins (and for all he knew we could be out; I was still leaving the apartment when Mark's psycho serial killer elf story chased him off to MIT), I was busy lighting candles. Emo candles.

I briefly wondered why we even had candles, then decided that they were probably left over from before Benny-the-Backstabber ditched us for Muffy or whatever her name was. Benny was just the kind of guy who would have candles lying around, pretending to be all sensitive so he could lure unsuspecting jailbait into his lair. Man, though, it's been ages since Benny moved out. When was the last time we cleaned this place?

I noticed Mark was done on the phone and thus ready to resume my song-writing practice. "How do you start a fire when there's nothing to burn and you feel like something's stuck in your flue?" I mean, yeah, we were burning the candles and all, but those were Benny's and so automatically not NEARLY cool enough for me.

"How can you generate heat when you can't feel your feet and they're turning blue?" Mark sang and I helped out with the last part. I did wonder, though, how one could tell if one's feet were blue if one was indeed wearing shoes. If one wasn't, well then perhaps that's an explanation as to why they're feet appear to be suffocating.

We looked at each other briefly then went to go find things to make a really cool fire with. I went to the walls and tore down a bunch of posters of me back from my pre-emo bad-haircut days and Mark went over to get his screenplays, which we had previously been using as footstools.

"You light up a mean blaze," Mark began.

"With posters," I lit them on fire and tossed them in a trashcan.

"And screenplays," Mark did the same with his pile.

"How we gonna pay? How we gonna pay? How we gonna pay? Last year's rent?"

"How do you stay on your feet when on every street it's trick or treat and tonight it's trick?" Hey, isn't that Collins? Man, he wasn't gone long enough to forget how to get to our apartment, maybe something happened? Oh! I know! He tripped and hit his head after he saw the eviction posters everywhere and was distracted wondering HOW IN THE WORLD BENNY COULD BE SUCH A BACKSTABBING BACKSTABBER! And now he thinks it's Halloween! Yep, that explains everything.

"Welcome back to town. Oh, I should lie down. Everything's brown and, uh-oh, I feel sick!"

Everything's brown? Now he's having vision problems? Or, more likely in my opinion, he hit his head so hard that he forgot he was African American?

Mark looked worried. Then again, Mark worries about everything. That's why he'll never be a good Emo. Well, that and that scarf I think he's secretly in love with. "Where is he?"

"Getting dizzy," Collins responded. Uh, duh, Collins. 'Getting dizzy' is an action or state of being, not actually a place. Or, at least any place I've ever heard of, which means no where within hearing distance.

Mark and I shrug and decide that if our apparently amnesia ex-roommate is going to be so unhelpful then we might as well keep singing. "How we gonna pay?"

The posers who live around us and have far inferior hair and, I suppose, scarves all begin to join in. "How we gonna pay? How we gonna pay? Last year's rent?"

Hm, why weren't they paying rent? Were they all the landlord's ex-roomies, too? Or were they agreeing to be in his films in exchange for rent-avoiding advice? The world may never know.

"The music ignites the night with passionate fire," Mark told me.

"The narration crackles and pops with incendiary wit," I returned the compliment more to be polite than anything else. I thought I saw "Furbies of DOOM" on the front of one of them and am beginning to think he only shows me his best work. Which is, in itself, very sad.

"Zoom in as they burn the past to the ground," Mark began as we picked up the trashcan and went over to our balcony where we threw the flaming contents over the edge. Other people were doing the same thing. Posers.

"And feel the heat of the future's glow. How do you leave the past behind when it keeps finding ways to get to your heart? It reaches way down deep and tears you inside out 'til you're torn apart. Rent!" Mark and I continued.

Even though Benny is a traitorous traitor, I'll give him one thing: Mark and I were never able to coordinate our songs so well before he gave us that oddly green glowing rock.

Though how the tenants manage it is beyond me…Do they go through our flat when I'm asleep? I mean, I'm always here, so it can't be when we're out…And that would explain why I run out of styling gel so quickly. Maybe they played with our shiny rock while stealing my stuff. Ah well, it's not like we actually have to pay for any of it anyway, seeing as how the clerk at the local grocery store totally has a crush on me from my non-emo days and is glad to do her part to improve my hair.

Anyway, somehow the tenants know WAY too much about us, because they join Mark and I in singing, "How can you connect in an age where strangers, landlords, lovers, your own blood cells betray! What binds the fabric together when the raging, shifting winds of change keep ripping away!"

Ah, speaking of potentially dangerous rocks, it figures that its giver would choose now to wax nostalgic and come and visit. As he gets out of his car and tries his best not to look terrified and reach for the switchblade I'm sure he still has in his pocket, Benny sings, "Draw a line in the sand and then make a stand!"

Although drawing a line in the sand really doesn't seem very practical. I mean, people are always walking on sand, for one. And it's very likely to collapse in on itself. Not to mention the threat from the ocean…But logic is evidentially beneath our dear social-climbing arch-nemesis.

"Use your camera to spar," I suggest to Mark. Put it to better use than filming homeless people. Dude, four words: Real Men Have Diaries.

"Use your guitar," he retorts. Ah, no. Not gonna happen. I'm Emo, not masochistic. And then only when it suits me.

"When they act tough, you call their bluff," the tenants sang, completely independent of me and Mark. Oh great, not only were they posers, but they were original-supplanting posers, now. Kind of like Benny, come to think of it, so perhaps they were the best people to take him on.

But I don't what they mean, calling his bluff. He'd evict them without a second thought. He'd probably spare us some thought, but only because he's gonna want the rest of his stuff back. Well, what we didn't throw at his head as we chased him from our apartment for being a sellout when we first found out about his engagement to Muffy. I mean, sure, we attended the wedding reception, but they had free food and fangirls still scared me at that point in time so we couldn't even take advantage of mine yet.

But yeah, throwing things at Benny's head…Good times, GOOD times…Come to think of it, that was when he'd promised us free rent. Probably just wanted us to stop after we gave him a concussion.

Now, there is no way in hell that I'm gonna let some random people I would probably know if I believed in outside steal my thunder! Apparently Mark had similar thoughts, or nearly, as I'm fairly sure he, at least, believes in outside, as he joined me with, "We're not gonna pay!"

Then the tenants joined us with, "We're not gonna pay, we're not gonna pay last year's rent!" Then we started getting really ambitious. "This year's rent! Next's year's rent! Rent, rent, rent, rent! We're not gonna pay!!! 'Cause everything is RENT!!!"

Then the tenants decided that they didn't care anymore and all left. And we were left to deal with the Devil in Landlord Form. GREAT. Starting tomorrow, I am officially never leaving the main room.

"Hey, bum," Benny snarled at the poor, helpless, kindly would-be window-scraper. "Get your ass off the Range Rover." And besides, everyone knows his name isn't Bum.

It's Mr. Squeegee-Man.